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Yorty kicks Blue Jays to 3-point OT win

LEWISBURG — When a team never trails in regulation, but loses the game, it doesn’t leave a very good feeling.

That’s exactly how Lewisburg felt Friday. The Green Dragons never trailed in regulation, but Central Columbia took advantage of a couple of key plays that went its way to tie the game late in the fourth quarter and then Mason Yorty’s 24-yard field goal sent the Blue Jays back to Bloomsburg with a 24-21 win.

“We beat ourselves, that’s it,” said Lewisburg coach Marc Persing. “We talk to our players about having a high football IQ and running into the punter in the back of the end zone when we would have got the ball inside the 20 is a low football IQ play. When we’re punting and we whip a guy out of bounds when he’s potentially in the white, that’s a low football IQ play.”

Those two plays were two keys in Central Columbia mounting a late comeback to tie the game. Had they and a few other earlier plays gone in Lewisburg’s favor instead, the Green Dragons would have been much more likely to come out on top. The Blue Jay defense also held the Green Dragons to just 82 yards in the second half, which also was a key in the comeback after Lewisburg had outgained Central in the first half while holding the Blue Jays to just 80 yards in the first half.

With the game tied 14-14 early in the fourth quarter, Nick Shedleski found an open Jackson Landis in the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown pass after scrambling around the pocket with 9:25 remaining in the fourth quarter to give Lewisburg the lead once again.

Central went three-and-out and got pinned deep in their own territory after consecutive sacks on its ensuing drive. Punting out of their own end zone, the Blue Jays shanked it, appearing to give Lewisburg the ball at the Central 17-yard line. However, a five-yard running-into-the-kicker penalty gave the Blue Jays another shot to flip the field, and this time they punted to midfield, where on the first play of Lewisburg’s possession, the Green Dragons lost a fumble for their only turnover of the game.

Central was unable to capitalize, but it flipped field position as the Blue Jays drove into the red zone before turning it over on downs with 2:49 remaining. Lewisburg was unable to do anything on its ensuing drive and was forced to punt with just over a minute left in regulation.

On the punt return, Lewisburg was hit with a personal foul for a late hit out of bounds on punt returner Jacob Reifer, which gave the Blue Jays the ball at the Lewisburg 34 with 1:02 left.

Two plays later, Garrett McNelis hit Troy Johnson for a 31-yard touchdown pass on a screen, and the PAT narrowly sailed through to tie the game, 21-21. The Green Dragons would get the ball to midfield but a bad snap lost them 15 yards and any chance it may have had at setting up a potential game-winning field goal in regulation.

The Blue Jays won the coin flip for overtime and Lewisburg took the ball first. On the third-down play, Shedleski was sacked for an 8-yard loss, leaving the Green Dragons a 37-yard field goal attempt which came out flat and was missed by Logan Moore.

Central ran three straight running plays and got it to the 7-yard line to set up Yorty for the game-winner, which split the uprights.

“We made a lot of mistakes tonight but is the first week that we were really challenged to overcome adversity and our kids did it time and time again,” said Central coach Scott Dennis. “We were making mistakes but we kept pulling it together and we won the game and it’s really important going into the playoffs because now they’re battle-tested. They’ve been challenged and they know what it takes to win.”

“I don’t think there’s any type of drill or anything that we can do (physically),” said Persing. “We encourage our kids to watch film, we talk about down and distance and situations but we have to do more as coaches because it’s c pearly not getting to them so we’re just going to continue harping on the same message (of football IQ) to the players.”

The Green Dragons took a 14-0 lead on a pair of first half touchdowns. The first of those was a Shedleski two-yard run on their second possession, which came after Central muffed a punt for its only turnover of the game, giving Lewisburg the ball on the Central 27. The second came when Shedleski found Ethan Spaulding for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 10:40 remaining.

It looked like they would take that into halftime until a series of plays with under a minute to go in the half resulted in Central cutting the lead in half. On a third-and-8 play from the Lewisburg 35, Shedleski was called for intentional grounding when his pass sailed high and well out of bounds, even though it appeared to go rightover the head of his intended receiver, and that resulted in a loss of 19 yards, setting up a fourth-and-27 from the Green Dragon 16. Central then blocked the punt by Shedleski, and Johnson beat Shedleski to the ball in the end zone and recovered it for the touchdown.

Central would tie the game on a seven-yard touchdown pass from McNellis to Zander Bradley late in the third quarter before the Green Dragons went back ahead on their next possession, setting up the back-and-forth finish.

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